free guernsey knitting pattern

This pattern is from the 1970’s or 1980’s, but it’s a tradtional pattern which hasn’t changed much throughout the twentieth century. This pattern is in 11 sizes from child’s to ladies to adult men’s. Read more and scroll down for the pattern.

Edited after a comment pointed out errors.

You may be wondering what’s a gansey? Or a guernsey? Luckily the BBC website is full of useful nonsense like this article from BBC Yorkshire. A gansey was a fisherman’s jumper, which the article claims was worn with a silk scarf. Somewhat wind and waterproof wear from the days before the oilskin or waterproof mackintosh fabric was invented. It makes me glad to be alive now and not 200 years ago – imagine there not being anything waterproof! It’s impossible to live in Britain without the requisite waterproof for hot rainy summers and a warm waterproof coat for winter and several umbrellas.

The BBC article suggests it was tight knitting which kept your fisherman warm, but the yarn was rich in lanolin. Modern washing would rinse this out pretty quickly, so I’m wondering if the fishermen every washed their jumpers? You can buy oiled wool in modern times, but these are designed to go through a knitting machine and finished items are usually washed to remove the oil.

My friend Madeline is knitting one now for her Dad, inspiring this post. You can  get reasonabley priced 5 ply Guernsey yarn from Wendy’s. It’s 100% wool. For 100% British and 100% wool try Blacker Yarns Guernsey wool.

If you want to be lazy and just buy a gansey / guernsey, they seem to be still made in the Channel Islands (for international readers, these lie off the coast between Britain and France, one of which is called Guernsey).  This firm makes them for the parts of the British Army and Navy who still feature it as part of their uniform. Expect your jumper to last 30 years if you keep it away from a tumble dryer. I have hand washed and dried a guernsey belonging to my then-boyfriend and it gets soooo heavy with water. I suggest rolling it in a towel and twisting it and then walking over it, repeat with several more towels. Then drape over a chair outside on a freezing day and leave for ages, then brush off the ice – if you put it on a radiator you’ll just end up with warm droplets of water all over it. Preferably never  handwash your boyfriend’s jumpers, no matter how many items he shrinks.

It might also help to know that the knitting is supposed to be very dense. Normally you’d be knitting this size of wool on bigger needles than 3mm and 2 3/4 mm.

If you want a genuine WW2 pattern for a gansey, the type with cables, there is one on sale on this vintage knitting website from The Vintage Knitting Lady.

I’m from a fishing town myself, but we had our port built after oilskin was invented. Here is a famous local lifeboatmen /fisherman from my home town showing off their oilskins (the website names the surnames of these men, one of which is my Grandma’s maiden name, so one of these chaps is probably a relative):

Here is the pattern:

free guernsey knitting pattern
Image (4)
free guernsey knitting pattern




14 responses to “Free Knitting Pattern for a Traditional Gansy a.k.a Guernsey”

  1. Jacinta Avatar

    Thank you so much for this and all the fabulous patterns. I am sure I used to have this pattern back in the day 🙂

    1. Vivien moitie Avatar
      Vivien moitie

      Where can I buy the wool needed for a traditional Guernsey? I live in Australia but can order on line…..

  2. jane Avatar

    Oh dear. The pattern is nice but the article is full of errors. To start with a gansey has always been worn over other clothing, usually a linen shirt and knitted long-johns. The yarn is far too rough to wear next to the skin. The silk scarf is correct, it was to stop chafing around the neck – again because the wool is rough.
    The waterproof properties of ganseys have been grossly over-stated. They will certainly keep out some water but they are definitely not waterproof. There were perfectly good waterproof garments available, cloth oiled with linseed oil, wax or other fat is surprisingly good and has been known and used for centuries.
    As for the link to the blog, the writer is a laughing stock among serious gansey knitters and historians because he makes wild claims based on nothing more than his own opinion, and will reject any claims to the contrary.

    1. Caroline Brooks Avatar

      I am genuinely happy to be corrected by someone who knows more than me. I add this as an apology/explanation. It’s tricky to check the credibility of a source when it’s an amateur knitting historian enthusiast. When I was researching I googled and that blog seemed so detailed (and who else has a tonne of posts just about one sort of jumper) so I probably mistook enthusiasm for knowledge.

  3. Julie Hyatt Avatar
    Julie Hyatt

    Thank you so much, for the lovely pattern. I have been searching for a pattern us has this for sometime now, and am looking forward to the finished project. Diddle’ Mum.

  4. Ellie Avatar

    Hi, Have been trying to download the pattern for the “gansey” for some reason the only thing that I get is the title to your website

  5. Janet Carbone Avatar
    Janet Carbone

    How can I get a copy of the traditional gansey pattern, as I seem unable to download. Thank you.

  6. croeso2 Avatar

    I am looking for a Guernsey pamphlet of 4 designs I made in about 1980. The cover design was similar to Emu pattern no. 4726. There were a couple and 2 children on the cover and I believe the lady was wearing a red berry. I think it has got lost in a house move. I would love to relocate this pattern.

  7. Christine Glasson Avatar
    Christine Glasson

    I’m having trouble with this pattern. I can’t seem to get the two shoulders to work – the first one is ok but when I try to do the second one my needles are the wrong way round. Am I doing something wrong – I’ve unpicked it 4 times so far!!!

  8. 36berkeley Avatar

    Frangipani is another good made in Britain option. You can get it direct as well as from retailers. If you buy it direct it comes on cones (250 or 500g); retailers have it in balls.

  9. Pauline Gerdes Brough Avatar
    Pauline Gerdes Brough

    Would love to be able to download the gansey pattern but unable to as there does not seem to a link to be able to do this even after making a donation help please

  10. Jude Avatar

    Hi Caroline. Hope you are well and COVID lockdowns were bearable. Thank you for taking the time to post this pattern. I have been looking for a gentle introduction to Gansey knitting… This may be the one.
    From my Android phone, I clicked on each image until a menu appeared then selected the “download image” option. I am guessing that you do not have a pdf version.
    All the best.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.